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Should Lions Consider Resting Banged-Up Stafford?

By: Will Burchfield

After two straight games of constant assault, Matthew Stafford is banged-up.

He injured his right ankle and cut open his left hand in Sunday's loss to the Panthers during which he was sacked six times and pressured many more.

Stafford also suffered a right thigh strain, according to a former NFL doctor who diagnoses injuries by watching game film. From David Chao, who's known to have a highly accurate eye:

"He came out in the first series of the fourth quarter and had his thigh wrapped on the right, consistent with a muscle strain.

"Also, midway through the fourth quarter, Carolina's Kawaan Short rolled onto Stafford's right ankle on a sack from behind. By video, it appears Stafford suffered a mild high ankle sprain as the defender landed on the back of Stafford's ankle."

Stafford finished the game, albeit with a noticeable limp and a heavy tape job on his ankle. He wasn't available to address the media until well after his teammates had left the locker room.

"I'll be alright," Stafford said.

Asked how difficult it was to play at less than 100 percent, he said, "I don't know. I was out there just trying to stay on the field and play as well as I could."

Stafford declined to identify the play on which he hurt his ankle, deferring all other injury-related questions to Jim Caldwell.

Caldwell acknowledged on Monday that Stafford is sore -- "Like most of the guys," he said -- but wouldn't say much else.

Could it behoove the Lions to keep Stafford out of their upcoming game against the Saints? Their bye comes the week after, so it would ensure Stafford two full weeks of rest.

On top of that, Detroit's offensive line is doing Stafford far more harm than good at this point. He's endured six sacks each of the last two games, and only two quarterbacks have been sacked more times than Stafford (18) this season.

The risk for serious injury increases with his ankle compromised. (See: Beckham, Odell.) And when the pressure inevitably arrives versus the Saints, Stafford will be far less equipped to avoid it.

Left tackle Taylor Decker will be eligible to return for the Lions' Week 8 game versus the Steelers. Perhaps Stafford could return with him.

As to how he weighs playing Stafford with less mobility -- and mobility has become a key part of his game -- Caldwell said, "Totally hypothetical situation which, generally, as you well know, I'm not going to answer."

Stafford actually played his best football on Sunday in the wake of his injuries, hobbling his way through two touchdown drives late in the game. He threw mostly out of the shotgun in this stretch, conceivably to avoid having to drop back.

In all likelihood, the Lions will stick with Stafford versus the Saints, knowing the bye week will afford him rest afterward.

From Chao:

"As this appears to be a relatively mild high ankle sprain and given that Stafford is a strong-armed pocket QB, he is unlikely to miss this week's game against the Saints. However, his injury could affect the offense in that he might be in more shotgun formations and it could affect his mobility in the pocket and accuracy on deeper downfield throws."

More information on Stafford's health will be available when the Lions' weekly practice report comes out on Wednesday.

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